Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)

Submitted by Malin Lindgren 10th June 2015 10:58
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Photo credit Neil Palmer/CIAT

Full title: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) - Special Report from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Assessment Report 5 (AR5)

This report is part of the larger, Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) published by the IPCC. If you wish to read more about AR5 or see the other reports featured on weADAPT, please click here. 

Introduction

This report presents key findings from the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). The SREX approaches the topic by assessing the scientific literature on issues that range from the relationship between climate change and extreme weather and climate events (‘climate extremes’) to the implications of these events for society and sustainable development. The assessment concerns the interaction of climatic, environmental, and human factors that can lead to impacts and disasters, options for managing the risks posed by impacts and disasters, and the important role that non-climatic factors play in determining impacts. Figure 1 defines concepts central to the SREX.

Figure 1. Illustration of the core concepts of SREX. Figure from the IPCC report. Click to enlarge.

Observations of Exposure, Vulnerability, Climate Extremes, Impacts, and Disaster Losses

The impacts of climate extremes and the potential for disasters result from the climate extremes themselves and from the exposure and vulnerability of human and natural systems. Observed changes in climate extremes reflect the influence of anthropogenic climate change in addition to natural climate variability, with changes in exposure and vulnerability influenced by both climatic and non-climatic factors.

Exposure and vulnerability are dynamic, varying across temporal and spatial scales, and depend on economic, social, geographic, demographic, cultural, institutional, governance, and environmental factors. Individuals and communities are differentially exposed and vulnerable based on inequalities expressed through levels of wealth and education, disability, and health status, as well as gender, age, class, and other social and cultural characteristics.

Disaster Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Change: Past Experience with Climate Extremes

Past experience with climate extremes contributes to understanding of effective disaster risk management and adaptation approaches to manage risks. The research concludes that the severity of the impacts of climate extremes depends strongly on the level of the exposure and vulnerability to these extremes, and closer integration of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, along with the incorporation of both into local, sub-national, national, and international development policies and practices, could provide benefits at all scales.

Figure 2. Aggregate Prevalent Vulnerability Index (PVI) for 19 countries of the Americas for 2007. Figure from main report. Click to enlarge.

Future Climate Extremes, Impacts, and Disaster Losses

Future changes in exposure, vulnerability, and climate extremes resulting from natural climate variability, anthropogenic climate change, and socioeconomic development can alter the impacts of climate extremes on natural and human systems and the potential for disasters.

Extreme events will have greater impacts on sectors with closer links to climate, such as water, agriculture and food security, forestry, health, and tourism. For example, while it is not currently possible to reliably project specific changes at the catchment scale, there is high confidence that changes in climate have the potential to seriously affect water management systems. However, climate change is in many instances only one of the drivers of future changes, and is not necessarily the most important driver at the local scale. Climate-related extremes are also expected to produce large impacts on infrastructure, although detailed analysis of potential and projected damages are limited to a few countries, infrastructure types, and sectors.

Managing Changing Risks of Climate Extremes and Disasters

Adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management provide a range of complementary approaches for managing the risks of climate extremes and disasters. Effectively applying and combining approaches may benefit from considering the broader challenge of sustainable development.

Progress toward resilient and sustainable development in the context of changing climate extremes can benefit from questioning assumptions and paradigms and stimulating innovation to encourage new patterns of response. Successfully addressing disaster risk, climate change, and other stressors often involves embracing broad participation in strategy development, the capacity to combine multiple perspectives, and contrasting ways of organizing social relations.

Suggested citation

IPCC, 2012: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA, 582 pp.

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